My last post was about the Booster Bricks subscription we bought our kids for Christmas. It is not just a box of random Legos though. The box includes challenges as well as an online Facebook group to participate in: weekly challenges, builds, and games.
This past weekend’s challenge was to build a Lego Carousel. Two of my boys, Matthias and Ian, worked pretty hard on it so I thought I’d post about it here.
For Christmas, we also bought our kids one of the largest Technic sets currently available: The Bucket Wheel Excavator. At almost 4,000 pieces, this is a huge set. We have to confess that we bought it mostly for the pieces. My boys used some of those pieces in their Carousel, which is why it looks a bit skeletal.
Matthias and Ian used a medium motor to power the Carousel. The gear assembly is pretty simple. The circular yellow pieces form a large gear.
You can see the gear and motor assembly inside the walls in the picture above. The switch is located outside the walls.
The Carousel sits on the small gear attached to the motor as well as 3 flagpole pieces that help keep the Carousel level but still allow it to rotate.
I was really proud of my boys for keeping at this build. They had no instructions and only a little bit of help from Josh. He helped them figure out how to downgear the motor so the Carousel wouldn’t spin too fast.
Here is a quick video of their Carousel in motion!
They didn’t mess with the design element too much but that is ok with me. I’m more interested in their learning the mechanics of it. Design can come later!
About 2 years ago, Lynn started to talk about the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. If we had the opportunity, she wanted to go to an area with 100% totality. Last year in August, we started to get serious about going to the eclipse. Even then it was difficult to find a place to rent to stay in the area we wanted to go because of cost and availability. With our large family, a hotel would be much too expensive, renting an RV was not an option, so a vacation rental through VRBO was the way to go for us. We were able to find a house to rent in Island Park, Idaho. It was about 30 minutes away from the 100% totality area, and about 40 minutes away from the area with over 2 minutes of complete totality. We figured we would rent the house, and then find a decent place to drive to observe the eclipse.
We left Friday the 18th of August around 7pm from our home in San Diego County. We drove through the night and met my parents in Beaver, Utah. They had left earlier Friday morning so they wouldn’t have to drive through the night. We arrived in Island Park about 5pm Saturday. The distance we traveled was about 1050 miles, but we did make some fairly long stops.
On Sunday, we drove around Rexburg, Idaho and Ashton, Idaho, both towns being in the 100% totality area, including going to church. There were farmers who had harvested their crops in fields along the Highway 20 and were allowing visitors to camp in those fields for a fee. There were also farmers who had fields with KEEP OUT on hay bales. If I had a field that had not been harvested yet, I definitely would not want anyone trampling my crops!
On August 21st or Eclipse Day, there were also people who parked along the pullouts off of the freeway who may have come up just for the few hours it would take to view the eclipse.
We did not have a definite plan for Eclipse Day because we weren’t quite sure where exactly we would be able to go to watch. We knew that there were going to be many, many people in the area that day and were unsure where parking would be available. Josh preferred to be where there would be less people.
We told the pastor of the church we were visiting about the reason for our visit to the area (Total solar eclipse, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons) and he and his wife were extremely generous and invited us to their home for Eclipse Day, which was located in the zone of on totality with a duration of 2 minutes!
On Eclipse Day morning, we probably should have left earlier because of traffic, but we left a little later and arrived at the pastor’s house at 10:15 AM, right at the beginning of the partial eclipse.
Josh, my father-in-law, and I all had cameras set up to photograph the eclipse through partial phase and totality. None of us are expert photographers, but we tried to photograph it anyway.
I do have to say that none of the pictures you see online of a total solar eclipse can compare to seeing one in person. There is also a huge difference between a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse. At our vacation rental, coverage was 99.4% but even that was not enough to experience totality.
Experiencing totality was not even close to what I was expecting. I knew it would get cold, I knew about the darkness, I knew that I might go a bit crazy trying to do too many things in two minutes. But for me, the highlight was looking up at the sun during totality and seeing the black hole where the sun should be and the delicate ribbons and streamers of the sun’s corona. It was beautiful and alien at the same time, and most likely is something that I will never see again.
The horizon around us took on the light of sunset/sunrise. The air turned cold, shadows became sharper, like sitting in the lights of a football stadium at night. You can see, but everything looks slightly faded, like looking at a sepia photo. We could hear cheering from fellow eclipse watchers in the neighborhood.
Then, totality ended and the sun and normality returned.
One thing that struck me about the eclipse: it is silent. There is no fanfare when totality begins and there is no taps when it ends. There is nothing you can do but watch and experience and admire. You are only an onlooker in this dance between the sun and the moon.
After the eclipse, life went on. We ate lunch with the pastor and his family, left around 3:30 PM for our vacation rental, took a detour to see a waterfall called Mesa Falls, and didn’t get back to the house until about 6:45 PM. A 50 mile trip took us close to 3 hours because of traffic.
In spite of the traffic, it was worth it to experience this once in a lifetime event. Though, if we have a mind to, I suppose we could try to make it to the next total solar eclipse in the US, which will be on April 8, 2024, in seven years!
P.S. We took many more pictures and videos during the eclipse. Hopefully, we will get a post up soon with all of those. They need to be processed, edited, or reduced to be posted. Thank you so much for reading!
Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.
This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.
This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.
After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.
For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.
There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.
The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.
We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.
I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?
Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.
We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.
One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).
We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.
Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.
The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.
We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!
This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.
After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!
We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!
I’m not sure if I posted about our results from San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration, but here is the gist: Currently, Josh and I do not have passes for the same days at Comic-Con, which kind of defeats the purpose of us going. You know, together time and geeking out about all the things at the same time.
Yesterday, we got our e-mails about Open Registration. This year, it will be on April 8th at 9 AM. That day is going to be busy for us (birthday party for our twin nephews at 10 AM then our oldest is in a band concert at 6 PM), but hopefully, either Josh can get Friday and Saturday passes, or I can at least get just a Thursday pass.
I will say this though. Even if we don’t get to actually attend Comic-Con, I’m pretty sure that we will be be downtown at least one of those days. For three years, we just went downtown during Comic-Con with our kids and there were so many things to do outside the convention center that it really didn’t matter that we didn’t have passes. In fact, I’m hoping to write a post about that: Things to Do Outside Comic-Con when You Can’t Actually Go to Comic-Con. And it is a surprisingly long list!
Since today is 3/14, of course I had to make a pie for pi day. I mulled over a few pies before I started on one. Lemon meringue? Chocolate custard tart? Does a tart count as a pie? Shepherd’s pie?
Well, I had leftover chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge… and realized that maybe I could use that as a pie crust! So next I needed an easy filling. There is a pie my sister-in-law makes that is yummy and chocolatey called chocolate truffle pie.
I won’t say much about actually making this pie since it is just to celebrate pi and math in general. If you’d like the recipes, they are at the following links.
This is the cookie crust before I baked it. It looks just like a giant cookie.
This crust looked so yummy after baking that I had a hard time resisting eating it! The dough puffed up a little in the middle so I tamped it down a little. It looks like I didn’t need to since the filling didn’t fill this pie pan up as much as I thought it would.
This is how you try to do props for food photography (or the sad attempt) when you have kids, are homeschooling them, and just fed them lunch. Some day, I will learn to take decent pictures of my baking. Someday!
In the meantime, I hope everyone had a lovely pi day!
P.S. I have no idea if the cookie crust worked out. We won’t find out until after dinner!
Today, returning registration for San Diego Comic-Con begins at 9:00 AM PST. We wouldn’t be The Geek Homestead if we weren’t trying for passes to this annual geekfest! This year, we are hoping to go two days instead of just one. We will also try to be better about posting during Comic-Con to the blog!
UPDATE: Returning registration sold out so fast for the days I wanted! So Josh has Thursday and I have Friday and Saturday. So as of right now, we can’t even go together to Comic-Con. We will be trying for the remaining days at open registration in April.
Since the Lego Mindcub3r took so long to build and get working, the kids played with it for more than a few days. It wasn’t until last week that we decided it was time to take the Mindcub3r apart and build a new bot to play with. Josh gave us a few options, and I decided we would try the Banner Print3r bot.
The Banner Print3r bot can draw or write on a cash register/calculator paper roll using a standard Sharpie marker. If you have a washable marker though that works as well as and is the same size as a Sharpie, I’d recommend using that. We didn’t have any cash register paper rolls and I didn’t feel like taking all the kids to Staples, so I ordered a 12-pack off Amazon. At first, I thought I had bought too much paper, but it ended up being a good thing. We are already using our second cash register paper roll!
Since this is a monster post (1500 words!), I am going to place the rest of it under a read more.